Friday, June 18, 2010

Tough times in Yarra Valley see water prosecutions

Rachel Carbonnel in ABC News (Australia): …One of the wettest parts of Victoria is the Yarra Valley, which provides water for farms, wineries and nurseries as well as drinking water for Melbourne. But even here, rainfall has been declining and management of water is getting tougher.

And now some horticultural businesses have found themselves in court for illegally taking water, including Flemings Nurseries, which recently won acclaim for its gold medal at England's prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.

…Wes Fleming, a third generation nurseryman, ships about 300,000 trees all over Australia in a three-week period…. One of Flemings' orchard sites was destroyed in last year's Black Saturday bushfires and later that year the company was prosecuted for pumping water during a ban period. They were not convicted but were ordered to pay $46,000 in fines and costs. "That was something that we used above our water allocation and rightfully we were fined for that," he said…

…It is an intense period of change for growers in the Yarra Valley. "Our industry has been in drought now for probably about six or seven years. Yes we're having a good winter but we're still below average rainfall," says Mr Fleming.

…Melbourne Water looks after more than 8,000 kilometres of rivers and creeks around greater Melbourne including the Yarra River system. Manager of waterways, Chris Chesterfield, says decreasing rainfall is the result of climate change, not a temporary drought.

He says balancing the competing needs in the Yarra River System is getting harder, and businesses taking water unlawfully are always warned, with prosecution a last resort. "I've been quite convinced on every occasion that the taking of water illegally has been conscious and wilful and we would not prosecute if that was not the case," he said....

Vines at the Domaine Chandon winery in the Yarra Valley. Shot by Henry Burrows, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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